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Thread: Science as a Brief Candle in the Dark

  1. Top | #21
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post

    Malthus was wrong, and I think you are too

    Population expansion followed technological advance, rather than drove it - as we became able to keep more people alive, humanity expanded to fill the new capability, not because of higher birthrates, but because the technologies reduced death rates.[/SIZE]
    This was something I was reasonably sure about given past reading but you have me second guessing myself. I suspect it could be a combination of both? Might need to take a closer look.
    Birthrates per woman did increase with technology to a small degree, largely because a woman who doesn't survive childbirth can't have further children. But mostly the increases in population were due to more children surviving to reproductive age, as childhood death rates fell.

  2. Top | #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by bilby View Post

    Malthus was wrong, and I think you are too

    Population expansion followed technological advance, rather than drove it - as we became able to keep more people alive, humanity expanded to fill the new capability, not because of higher birthrates, but because the technologies reduced death rates.[/SIZE]
    This was something I was reasonably sure about given past reading but you have me second guessing myself. I suspect it could be a combination of both? Might need to take a closer look.
    Birthrates per woman did increase with technology to a small degree, largely because a woman who doesn't survive childbirth can't have further children. But mostly the increases in population were due to more children surviving to reproductive age, as childhood death rates fell.
    More curious about the bolded.

  3. Top | #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Yup.

    Also, modern civilisation, democracy, wealth and wellbeing. My guess is that if and when the shit ever hits the fan for humans (global catastrophe-wise) superstitions such as religion will dramatically increase again.

    Not good (if true) but might at least make many of us feel more grateful for and appreciative of the present, even if it's imperfect. Most of us here live in fortunate times.
    This is also why I'm a little more sympathetic than most to pre-modern communities, and those unwashed in science.
    What?
    All the really useful science was done well before the 17th century.
    Fire, the wheel, buoyancy/boats, the lever, the inclined plane, algebra, agriculture...

    And even into the 17th century all the really useful scientists were deeply theistic - Christians, Muslims, Jews, Confucians, Hindus...

  4. Top | #24
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lion IRC View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Yup.

    Also, modern civilisation, democracy, wealth and wellbeing. My guess is that if and when the shit ever hits the fan for humans (global catastrophe-wise) superstitions such as religion will dramatically increase again.

    Not good (if true) but might at least make many of us feel more grateful for and appreciative of the present, even if it's imperfect. Most of us here live in fortunate times.
    This is also why I'm a little more sympathetic than most to pre-modern communities, and those unwashed in science.
    What?
    All the really useful science was done well before the 17th century.
    Fire, the wheel, buoyancy/boats, the lever, the inclined plane, algebra, agriculture...

    And even into the 17th century all the really useful scientists were deeply theistic - Christians, Muslims, Jews, Confucians, Hindus...
    Why am I not surprised that you disparage the value of every advance of the modern age? I bet you would have felt right at home in the 16th Century, back in the good old days when if people disagreed with the views of the church, you were encouraged to set them on fire.

    Theism doesn't prevent anyone from doing science. It can make it harder for them, but it's not a complete preventative.

    On the other hand, Christianity is not more thoroughly disbelieved by atheist scientists than it is by Muslim, Jewish, Confucian or Hindu scientists. Your insane persistence in lumping together people who think your religion is all kinds of wrong, and declaring them to be supportive of your religious positions because they fall under the term 'theists', is not fooling anyone, except, perhaps, you.

  5. Top | #25
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    A few maxims on epistemology, science, and religion:

    - we cannot perceive that which we do not know
    - so: before the rise of science, the material nature of the universe was largely unknowable
    - so: religion/myth predominated
    - so: knowledge of the universe, secularism, materialism, is contingent on modern science and similar
    - so: all of us are only secular because secularism is now knowable

    Science as a Brief Candle in the Dark
    Are you sure you thought this through? If the so called material world is only accessible via the rise of Western-style science, and was "unknowable" in the absence of this paradigm, then that seems like a pretty serious argument against the claimed objectivity of science. You shouldn't need to belong to a philosophical school in order to perceive an objective fact.

    Luckily, the weight of evidence is strongly against you. While they did not draw the same distinctions and boundaries around it that you do, all cultures that ever existed have been capable of perceiving, evaluating, and predicting the material universe. Science is awesome, but it is not the only way to approach the material, and I would challenge whether it is the sole property of secular societies at all. "Secular" is a term with only culture-specific historical meaning, and contested meaning at that. Science is a universally accessible paradigm that should work equally well regardless of personal prejudices.

  6. Top | #26
    Fair dinkum thinkum bilby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    A few maxims on epistemology, science, and religion:

    - we cannot perceive that which we do not know
    - so: before the rise of science, the material nature of the universe was largely unknowable
    - so: religion/myth predominated
    - so: knowledge of the universe, secularism, materialism, is contingent on modern science and similar
    - so: all of us are only secular because secularism is now knowable

    Science as a Brief Candle in the Dark
    Are you sure you thought this through? If the so called material world is only accessible via the rise of Western-style science, and was "unknowable" in the absence of this paradigm, then that seems like a pretty serious argument against the claimed objectivity of science. You shouldn't need to belong to a philosophical school in order to perceive an objective fact.
    You are conflating 'science' as a philosophical school with 'science' the epistemological methodology.

    Luckily, the weight of evidence is strongly against you. While they did not draw the same distinctions and boundaries around it that you do, all cultures that ever existed have been capable of perceiving, evaluating, and predicting the material universe. Science is awesome, but it is not the only way to approach the material, and I would challenge whether it is the sole property of secular societies at all. "Secular" is a term with only culture-specific historical meaning, and contested meaning at that. Science is a universally accessible paradigm that should work equally well regardless of personal prejudices.
    Science is not the only way to approach reality. But it's the only one we have by which we can know when our conclusions are incorrect, and in need of revision.

    In short, all other epistemologies fail to allow us to know the material nature of the universe.

    The Standard Model is correct, to within a VERY high degree of precision. We know, because we tested it. All previous hypotheses are known to be wrong. But none of them could have been shown to be wrong without science.

    Science doesn't tell us how things are. But it does a terrific job of telling us how things aren't.

  7. Top | #27
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    I think bilby is misled.

    I have not heard anything about Malthus being 'wrong'. Indeed, I understand his theory still underlies much of population sciences. I believe Aldo Leopold applied it in his studies of animal populations. Successfully. And, IIRC, Malthus postulates that no matter what factor acts to increase available resources, including technology, the population will expand to meet that increase until the point of mere subsistence is once again attained....

    I think bilby suffers from Micawberian delusions.

  8. Top | #28
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by whollygoats View Post
    I think bilby is misled.

    I have not heard anything about Malthus being 'wrong'. Indeed, I understand his theory still underlies much of population sciences. I believe Aldo Leopold applied it in his studies of animal populations. Successfully. And, IIRC, Malthus postulates that no matter what factor acts to increase available resources, including technology, the population will expand to meet that increase until the point of mere subsistence is once again attained....

    I think bilby suffers from Micawberian delusions.
    I don't know any demographers who take Malthus seriously. They usually believe that the basis of their work should be empirical evidence, not the ramblings of a Victorian armchair social scientist who wanted an legitimate sounding excuse to kill Irishmen. The overpopulation hysteria is pseudoscience.

  9. Top | #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by whollygoats View Post
    I think bilby is misled.

    I have not heard anything about Malthus being 'wrong'. Indeed, I understand his theory still underlies much of population sciences. I believe Aldo Leopold applied it in his studies of animal populations. Successfully. And, IIRC, Malthus postulates that no matter what factor acts to increase available resources, including technology, the population will expand to meet that increase until the point of mere subsistence is once again attained....

    I think bilby suffers from Micawberian delusions.
    I don't know any demographers who take Malthus seriously. They usually believe that the basis of their work should be empirical evidence, not the ramblings of a Victorian armchair social scientist who wanted an legitimate sounding excuse to kill Irishmen. The overpopulation hysteria is pseudoscience.
    "Overpopulation hysteria"?



    And...yeah...who the fuck needs theorists? Just go out and collect all that empirical evidence. It'll show you exactly what you need to collect to tell you what you need.

    Fuck Einstein, Plank, Sapir, Darwin, Liebnitz, Marx, Newton, Spengler, von Neumann, Boulding...name your favorite...and all those other armchair theorists.

    Last edited by whollygoats; 09-18-2018 at 04:15 PM.

  10. Top | #30
    Veteran Member phands's Avatar
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    Scientific American: Why Malthus Is Still Wrong

    Just for the record....Malthus was wrong. This is just one of many scholarly articles as to why....

    If by fiat I had to identify the most consequential ideas in the history of science, good and bad, in the top 10 would be the 1798 treatise An Essay on the Principle of Population, by English political economist Thomas Robert Malthus. On the positive side of the ledger, it inspired Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace to work out the mechanics of natural selection based on Malthus's observation that populations tend to increase geometrically (2, 4, 8, 16 …), whereas food reserves grow arithmetically (2, 3, 4, 5 …), leading to competition for scarce resources and differential reproductive success, the driver of evolution.

    On the negative side of the ledger are the policies derived from the belief in the inevitability of a Malthusian collapse. “The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race,” Malthus gloomily predicted. His scenario influenced policy makers to embrace social Darwinism and eugenics, resulting in draconian measures to restrict particular populations' family size, including forced sterilizations.


    In his book The Evolution of Everything (Harper, 2015), evolutionary biologist and journalist Matt Ridley sums up the policy succinctly: “Better to be cruel to be kind.” The belief that “those in power knew best what was good for the vulnerable and weak” led directly to legal actions based on questionable Malthusian science. For example, the English Poor Law implemented by Queen Elizabeth I in 1601 to provide food to the poor was severely curtailed by the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, based on Malthusian reasoning that helping the poor only encourages them to have more children and thereby exacerbate poverty. The British government had a similar Malthusian attitude during the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, Ridley notes, reasoning that famine, in the words of Assistant Secretary to the Treasury Charles Trevelyan, was an “effective mechanism for reducing surplus population.” A few decades later Francis Galton advocated marriage between the fittest individuals (“What nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly man may do providently, quickly and kindly”), followed by a number of prominent socialists such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb, George Bernard Shaw, Havelock Ellis and H. G. Wells, who openly championed eugenics as a tool of social engineering.


    We think of eugenics and forced sterilization as a right-wing Nazi program implemented in 1930s Germany. Yet as Princeton University economist Thomas Leonard documents in his book Illiberal Reformers (Princeton University Press, 2016) and former New York Times editor Adam Cohen reminds us in his book Imbeciles (Penguin, 2016), eugenics fever swept America in the early 20th century, culminating in the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, in which the justices legalized sterilization of “undesirable” citizens. The court included prominent progressives Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the latter of whom famously ruled, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” The result: sterilization of some 70,000 Americans.


    Science writer Ronald Bailey tracks neo-Malthusians in his book The End of Doom (St. Martin's Press, 2015), starting with Paul Ehrlich's 1968 best seller The Population Bomb, which proclaimed that “the battle to feed all of humanity is over.” Many doomsayers followed. Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown, for example, declared in 1995, “Humanity's greatest challenge may soon be just making it to the next harvest.” In a 2009 Scientific American article he affirmed his rhetorical question, “Could food shortages bring down civilization?” In a 2013 conference at the University of Vermont, Ehrlich assessed our chances of avoiding civilizational collapse at only 10 percent.


    The problem with Malthusians, Bailey writes, is that they “cannot let go of the simple but clearly wrong idea that human beings are no different than a herd of deer when it comes to reproduction.” Humans are thinking animals. We find solutions—think Norman Borlaug and the green revolution. The result is the opposite of what Malthus predicted: the wealthiest nations with the greatest food security have the lowest fertility rates, whereas the most food-insecure countries have the highest fertility rates.


    The solution to overpopulation is not to force people to have fewer children. China's one-child policy showed the futility of that experiment. It is to raise the poorest nations out of poverty through democratic governance, free trade, access to birth control, and the education and economic empowerment of women.
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...s-still-wrong/
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.” Terry Pratchett

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